California leads the nation in organic farms, land in organic production, and organic sales. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service, organic acreage has grown 46 percent from 2008 to 2014. California alone produced over $2.2 billion in organic agriculture in 2014, accounting for more than 40 percent of the nation’s organic production. Consequently, organic agriculture plays a key role in California’s economy.
The California Organic Foods Act of 1990 created the State Organic Program (SOP) at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). That same year the National Organic Program (NOP) was created within USDA and regulations to implement the NOP were completed in 2002. State legislation in 2003 aligned the state and national programs, and chartered CDFA with enforcement of the federal and state regulations. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) enforces laws pertaining to processed products marketed as organic.
The SOP is also an information resource for industry stakeholders. It provides training for county biologists, proactively conducts spot inspections, and, conducts marketplace surveillance and pesticide residue testing. The SOP is funded entirely by industry registration fees and verifies compliance from production to point of sale, ensuring organic integrity in California.
CDFA is committed to continued improvement of its service to the California organic community. In recognition of this, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross convened the Organic Stakeholder Working Group (Working Group) in the spring of 2016 to review the existing SOP and provide recommendations to the Secretary on how to maximize program efficiency and responsiveness.
The Working Group is comprised of a diverse group of 23 representatives from several sectors including growers, distributors, producers, certifiers, trade associations, a County Agricultural Commissioner, and state and federal agencies. The process was designed to ensure equitable representation of statewide interests and was facilitated by the Center for Collaborative Policy at the California State University, Sacramento. The Working Group set goals to:
- Define the current benefits and challenges of the existing SOP;
- Discuss future projects for CDFA’s consideration; and
- Prepare recommendations for the Secretary and the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC).
This report is the result of the Working Group’s efforts.
Through a series of four meetings held regionally throughout the state, the Working Group developed a series of recommendations. These recommendations identified six key topic areas with the intent to maximize the efficiency and responsiveness of the SOP. These include:
- Streamline the CDFA Registration Process, Enhance Data Collection and Maximize Data Utilization
- Improve Enforcement Activities and Enhance Training
- Expand Outreach and Communication to Stakeholders
- Empower and Energize the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC)
- Integrate Organic Throughout CDFA and Other State Agencies
- Leverage California’s SOP and California Organic Producers on a National Scale
This report covers the Working Group’s processes, meeting outcomes, and final recommendations. The consolidated recommendations will go to the CDFA Secretary and COPAC to be used as a guidance document for future decision-making.